So, we’ve put one plus one together and come up with what we think is the correct answer. The NSW government and Starfish Initiatives have called a press conference in Uralla on Thursday to announce the winner of the grant to develop the first “zero net energy” town in the state.
Considering that Uralla was one of five towns in the northern Tablelands to apply for the $105,000 grant to develop a plan, we are betting that the location of the news conference means that the winner is …… Uralla.
Mayor Michael Pearce, an independent, told the local paper last month that the move to become a zero net energy town – effectively producing as much renewable energy in the local district as the locals consumer – will cut power bills for the town’s ratepayers and businesses.
“We already have solar panels powering our aged-care facilities and heating our swimming pool; our community is telling us they want more renewable initiatives and this could fit the bill,” Pearce told the Armidale Express.
Uralla was one of five towns – along with Walcha, Glen Innes, Bingara and Manilla – to express interest in becoming the model town. Several dozen firms applied to help draw up the master plan, which could be used as a blueprint for other towns and communities.
It is part of a growing trend for regional centres to look at local renewable generation options. Lismore has a 100 per cent renewable energy plan, two towns in Victoria – Yackandandah and Newstead – have similar ambitions, a group of councils in western NSW want to co-operate on big solar developments, and the Sunshine Coast council is going ahead with its 15MW solar plant.
Uralla is located almost exactly half way between Sydney and Brisbane, abou 20kms south of Armidale.
Its most famous citizen was Captain Thunderbolt, described on the town’s website as a “hardworking bushranger.”
Starfish executive director Adam Blakester told the paper that an average town of 5000 people would spend up to $20 million a year on energy. “If we can produce that energy locally and competitively, we create a new industry.”
Uralla town has a population of around 2,400 people, but its shire has a population of around 6,500.